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Gov’t urged to investigate ‘human rights abuse’ in Kailahun

SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 By Mohamed Massaquoi

The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law-Sierra Leone (CARL-SL) has urged the government to launch an independent investigation into whether probable cause exists to bring to justice those responsible for the alleged incidents of violence and human rights violations that occurred on 4th September in Kailahun.

CARL-SL, in a press release on 12 September, 2014, said they have been following “the disturbing reports” relating to clashes between personnel of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and residents of Kailahun – a quarantined Ebola epicenter district – and in particular between the Local Unit Commander and Chairman of Kailahun District Council, Alex Bhonapha.

CARL’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, said they await an independent verification of the ugly incident, adding that they were utterly disappointed that no independent inquiry has been launched to look into the matter.

He said it was unfortunate that residents of Kailahun District had to deal with an atmosphere of violence and insecurity in addition to the traumatic shock the Ebola viral disease has wreak on the district, which reported the index case of the virus in May and has so far recorded an infection of more than 500.

He lauded efforts by the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) to mediate between the council chairman and the local police boss, but underscored that the move does not bring closure to the incident, in the interest of justice and accountability.

“The peaceful resolution [sic] of the matter by the PPRC does not preclude the state from discharging its responsibility of ensuring justice and accountability for those alleged unlawful conduct and human rights violations.

“Since calm has now been restored to the town, this is a good time to embark on the important process of pursuing justice and accountability for those unfortunate incidents,” Tommy said, adding that peace devoid of justice would seriously undermine respect for human rights and rule of law in the country.

He also urged that previous violations by law enforcement officers should be investigated and prosecuted as soon as possible. “There are many complaints of alleged human rights violations against personnel of the Sierra Leone Police which are yet to be investigated,” he said.

He further urged the investigation of politically motivated violence, and expressed disappointed that there are still many such cases spanning 2011 which have yet to be concluded by the High Court of Sierra Leone. “It is critically important that these alleged violations are fully investigated with the view to ensuring accountability and justice for the perpetrators and the victims,” he said.

He added: “CARL-SL also urges the Sierra Leone Judiciary and all the parties to the cases aforementioned to conclude these trials without delay. It is important that we are making increasing efforts to bring closure to some of the incidents that remind us about the country’s inglorious and tragic past.”

It could be recalled that last Thursday (4 September) police officers fired live ammunitions and teargas canisters at the residence of the Chairman of the Kailahun District Council, apparently on the orders of the Local Unit Commander, who accused the latter of incitement.

The council chairman later described the incident as “an assassination attempt”, while the regional police boss in the east, Assistant Inspector General of Police Alfred Karrow-Kamara, apologised for the behaviour of his men.